Beware, for the reckoning is nigh, naughty neighbours!

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The Independent Online
I could hear her sneer at me down the telephone. It was a particularly unpleasant, mocking sneer. Sensing her contempt, I ventured an explanation for what she clearly thought was a ridiculous and futile venture.

"I only telephoned because you sent me the particulars."

"The property in question was sold two weeks ago," she repeated, still sneering.

I decided against further humiliation. I apologised profusely for troubling her and hung up. Clutching the particulars lovingly in my hands I read them once again. It reminded me a little of Valentine's Day when I was at school. In those days we used to lie about the sackfuls of cards we had received. Now I find myself telling similar porkies about estate agents' particulars.

Quite why I am getting so emotional about these particulars I do not know. They are, after all, defective documents. For while they are laden with room measurements, floor plans and helpful reminders on just how desirable the property is they all exclude the one piece of data that is absolutely crucial in the property-purchasing decision. Never in a lifetime of property buying and renting have I ever seen any particulars give information on what the neighbours are like.

There is little doubt that your neighbours have the easy ability to turn a dream home into a nightmare. In some cases they quite literally live on top of you. Others sleep just a dividing wall away. Yet for the purposes of the property purchase they are ignored.

Your solicitor will gravely inform you of the plans to build a motorway through your back garden. Surveyors will highlight wet rot, dry rot, rising damp and subsidence. But no one tells you about the people at number 23 who believe that the only way to appreciate The Rolling Stones is at 3am with the windows wide open.

What about the lady in the flat above who insists on doing a full wash with rinse and tumble dry in the middle of the night to take advantage of cheap electricity prices?

There are often tell-tale signs about the man next door who has decided to turn his front garden into a used car lot and repair shop. But what about the man who has turned his kitchen into a recording studio where he and the rest of the boys in the band can practice?

I will therefore be offering my services shortly to prospective house purchasers as a self-styled Neighbourhood Watcher. It will be my job to lurk around houses and flats at the dead of night looking for anti-social behaviour on the part of neighbours-to-be.

This is a job that is not without its risks. No one takes kindly to a shadowy figure hanging around their house in the middle of the night with a glass tumbler and a clipboard.

I admit this service is not without its shortcomings. Until my naughty neighbours database is fully up and running I will only be able to offer an analysis of neighbourly winter habits which, of course, can change quite dramatically in the summer. Such considerations as poor taste in garden furniture and a fixation with barbecue smoke only become apparent later in the year.

Despite its shortcomings there is little doubt that my Neighbourhood Watcher scheme will be a dramatic improvement on the current data vacuum.

The introduction of this scheme will also help end the present property shortage. Once it becomes clear that vendors will very soon be unable to keep secret the nasty nocturnal habits of their neighbours, there will be a rush to sell. This will be good news for me, if not for property prices.

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